Explore New Orleans

Playful Plates in New Orleans

Crescent City chefs are having fun the kitchen

In the food world, dishes tend to take wide pendulum swings. One moment the rage is simple ingredients and tiny portions; the next it’s all about wild, overflowing combinations.
     What’s evident in New Orleans right now: Cooks are having fun cooking. Menus are filled with playful dishes underscored by serious technique. Credit chef Peter Vazquez (more on him below), well-recognized for leading the charge in tweaking classics and thinking outside the box, followed by next-gen chef Mason Hereford (Turkey and the Wolf, Molly’s Rise and Shine) who has made food fun an imperative—and, in turn, given “permission” for loads of local chefs to let loose and take us all on the ride.
     Hold on tight. New Orleans chefs are pushing dining boundaries in a big way—and it’s fantastic fun.

Appetite Repair Shop
Pull into the Appetite Repair Shop for kicked-up Kit-Kats. (©Lorin Gaudin)

The Appetite Repair Shop 

Chef Pete Vazquez’s current culinary circus is filled with foods based on whim that often flaunt convention. Fans anxiously await his trippy menus to appear on the eatery’s Facebook page. One day there may be a KFC-inspired bowl of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn and slaw; the next could bring a tikka-spiced turkey burger stuffed with chicken curry or cucumber raita wrapped in naan. For dessert, how about the chef’s own “Kit-Kat” bars with crème anglaise? 

Saint Germain New Orleans
Saint Germain’s espelette-marinated peach, with smoked-mushroom aspic and toasted-peanut soubise. (©Saint Germain)

Saint Germain

The chef/owners of this casual, 16-seat, dinner-by-reservation-only restaurant explore unique ingredients and cooking preparations for their frequently changing menu. Recently there was grilled lobster legs with lobster tomalley barbecue sauce; boudin noir with green apple and fried rosemary; mackerel with pumpkin dashi; and cured-peach ice cream, smoked and frozen almond milk with salted caramel and honey-butter chips. 

The Country Club New Orleans
The Country Club’s Saturday drag brunch books months in advance, but you’ll find fun on the menu any day of the week. (©The Country Club)

The Country Club

Husband and wife chef duo, Chris and Lisa Barbato, have crafted a menu that matches the Country Club to a “C”... you gotta “see” it. A tangle of fried rice noodles top a Vietnamese-inspired salt-and-pepper chicken salad dressed with lime vinaigrette; a reimagined French “dip” of shaved lamb, crispy shallots and au jus on a locally made baguette; and, in a nod to the legendary voodoo queen, there’s the decadent, scratch-made, sweet cream, chocolate sauce and brownie “Marie L Aveau” ice cream sundae. 

Bar Marilou New Orleans
At Bar Marilou the focus is on sophisticated cocktails and elevated small plates. (©Bar Marilou)

Bar Marilou

Bright, colorful and chic, here you’ll find smart dishes with a touch of intellectual humor. Quoting Albert Camus, “Creer, c’est vivre deux fois” (to create is to live twice) tags the Instagram image of “Crushed Strawberries” topping toasted cinnamon croissant, browned butter, maple syrup and vanilla mousse. On the savory side, architectural multilayered potato cubes, each crowned with a scoop of crème fraîche and bowfin caviar, form “Pommes Marilou.” 

Piety and Desire New Orleans
Piety and Desire’s (almost) too-pretty-to-eat chocolates. (©Piety and Desire)

Piety and Desire Chocolate

Chef Christopher Nobles’ handmade bean-to-bar-to-bonbons are extraordinary and clever. In homage to (greatest of all time) Saints quarterback Drew Brees, there is a confection of goat’s milk caramel over dark chocolate goat’s milk ganache. The full collection has chocolates called Tiki Bar, Trust Fund Gutter Punk and Jasmine Jazz, Man!, to name a few. 

Lord of Meringues New Orleans
Abbott’s meringues can be personalized for weddings or special events. (©Lord of Meringues)

Lord of Meringues

Crisp, sweet clouds in bold colors, shapes and tastes. Chef Ehren Abbott bends the rules with hand-painted, pear-and-ginger meringue bark, cocoa-dusted pavlovas filled with bourbon caramel and a dollop of peanut butter and mushrooms you’d swear had just been plucked from the forest…except they taste like chocolate or caramel. The flavor list is endlessly entertaining and divine. 

Drink Beauty
A beetroot- and rose-infused latte from Drink Beauty. (©Drink Beauty)

Drink Beauty

Pop into this pink palace for colorful coffee concoctions. As pretty as they are tasty, these lattes come sprinkled with sassy stenciled words that lean adult-friendly. Get a giant, house-baked cookie to go with a “Day Dream” latte, made purple with butterfly pea flower powder, or a “Lit From Within” espresso, laced with honey, cinnamon and CBD oil, and—as the cup instructs—“suck it up.”